Mary McDonnell
McDonnell at the 2019 GalaxyCon Raleigh
Mary Eileen McDonnell

(1952-04-28) April 28, 1952 (age 71)
EducationState University of New York at Fredonia
Years active1977–present
Randle Mell
(m. 1984; sep. 2021)

Mary Eileen McDonnell (born April 28, 1952)[1][2][3] is an American film, stage, and television actress. She received Academy Award nominations for her roles as Stands With A Fist in Dances with Wolves and May-Alice Culhane in Passion Fish. McDonnell is well known for her performances as President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, First Lady Marilyn Whitmore in Independence Day, and Rose in Donnie Darko. She was featured as Captain Sharon Raydor during seasons 5–7 of the TNT series The Closer and starred as Commander Sharon Raydor in the spin-off series Major Crimes on the same network. In 2023, she had a main role as Madeleine Usher in the horror limited series The Fall of the House of Usher by Netflix.

Early life

Mary Eileen McDonnell was born April 28, 1952, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, one of six children born to Eileen (née Mundy) and John "Jack" McDonnell, a computer consultant.[4] She is of Irish descent[5] and was raised Roman Catholic.[6] As a child, McDonnell relocated with her family to Ithaca, New York, where she spent the remainder of her upbringing.[6]

McDonnell's father died when she was 21 years old.[7]


McDonnell appeared off-Broadway in two separate productions of Buried Child in 1978 and 1979, both times in the role of "Shelly".[8] She won an Obie Award for Best Actress in 1981 for her work in the play Still Life.[9] On Broadway, she has performed in productions of Execution of Justice, The Heidi Chronicles, and Summer and Smoke.

After more than 21 years of theater and television work, McDonnell made her film breakthrough in 1990 as the daughter of American settlers raised by Sioux Indians named Stands with a Fist in Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves. Portraying the adopted daughter of Graham Greene's character Kicking Bird, McDonnell, then 37, was only 10 months younger than Greene and less than two years younger than Tantoo Cardinal, who played Black Shawl, her adoptive mother. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role.[10]

McDonnell's role in Passion Fish (1992) brought her another Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Actress in a Leading Role.[11] Her other notable films include Grand Canyon (1991), Sneakers (1992), Independence Day (1996), and Donnie Darko (2001). McDonnell also starred with Patrick Swayze in the 1988 movie, Tiger Warsaw. In 1997, she played the judge in the film 12 Angry Men.

On television, McDonnell had her first regular part in 1980 on the soap opera As the World Turns. She starred in 1984 on the short-lived CBS medical comedy E/R. Coincidentally, she guest-starred in 2001 on the NBC medical series of the same name ER. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role on the show as Eleanor Carter. She played Dr. Virginia Dixon, a surgeon with Asperger syndrome for three episodes of Grey's Anatomy in 2008 and 2009.[12]

McDonnell at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con International

In 2003, McDonnell starred in the miniseries Battlestar Galactica as Laura Roslin. The miniseries led to the weekly series, with McDonnell's reprising her Laura Roslin role. The series ended in March 2009. McDonnell received worldwide recognition for her performance in the show, part of which was shown when she was invited to the United Nations for a retrospective and discussion with Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama).

McDonnell took part in a special session entitled Battlestar Galactica at the 2009 World Science Festival.[13] The session also included Michael Hogan, as well as scientists Nick Bostrom and Kevin Warwick.

In 2011, she appeared in the role of Kate Roberts, the mother of Emma Roberts's character in Scream 4.[14]

From 2009 to 2012, McDonnell had a recurring role in The Closer as Capt. Sharon Raydor, a police captain in the Force Investigation Division, who often butts heads with Kyra Sedgwick's Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning character.[15] McDonnell received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2011 for the role.[16]

After The Closer wrapped up its final season 2012, McDonnell's character continued as the lead in the spin-off, Major Crimes, which debuted August 13, 2012 and ended in January 2018.[17]

Personal life

McDonnell married actor Randle Mell in 1984. They have two children, Michael and Olivia.[18] The couple separated in December 2021.[19]



Year Title Role Notes
1984 Garbo Talks Lady Capulet
1987 Matewan Elma Radnor
1988 Tiger Warsaw Paula Warsaw
1990 Dances with Wolves Stands with a Fist
1991 Grand Canyon Claire
1992 Passion Fish May-Alice Culhane
1992 Sneakers Liz
1994 Blue Chips Jenny Bell
1996 Independence Day First Lady Marilyn Whitmore
1996 Mariette in Ecstasy Prioress
1997 Woman Undone Terri Hansen
1998 You Can Thank Me Later Diane
1999 Mumford Althea Brockett
2001 Donnie Darko Rose Darko
2003 Nola Margaret Langworthy
2004 Crazy Like a Fox Amy Banks
2011 Scream 4 Kate Roberts
2011 Margin Call Mary Rogers
2021 The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf Lady Zerbst Voice role


Year Title Role Notes
1980 As the World Turns Claudia Colfax Unknown episodes
1982 Money on the Side Terri Television film
1984–1985 E/R Dr. Eve Sheridan Main role; 20 episodes
1995–1996 High Society Dorothy "Dott" Emerson Main role; 13 episodes
1997 12 Angry Men Judge Cynthia Nance Television film
1998 Evidence of Blood Dora Overton Television film
1999 Replacing Dad Linda Marsh Television film
1999 Ryan Caulfield: Year One Rachel Caulfield 2 episodes
2000 A Father's Choice Susan Shaw Television film
2000 For All Time Laura Brown Television film
2001–2002 ER Eleanor Carter 5 episodes
2002 Touched by an Angel Sister Theodore Episode: "Minute by Minute"
2002 The Locket Helen Staples Television film
2003 Battlestar Galactica President Laura Roslin Television miniseries
2004–2009 Battlestar Galactica President Laura Roslin Main role; 71 episodes
2005 Mrs. Harris Vivian Schulte Television film
2008–2009 Grey's Anatomy Dr. Virginia Dixon 3 episodes
2009 Killer Hair Rose Television film
2009 Hostile Makeover Rose Smithsonian Television film
2009–2012 The Closer Captain Sharon Raydor Recurring Role (season 5–6)
Main Cast (season 7)
23 episodes
2012–2018 Major Crimes Captain (later Commander) Sharon Raydor Main role; 105 episodes
2017 Fargo Ruby Goldfarb 4 episodes
2019 Veronica Mars Jane Episode: "Years, Continents, Bloodshed"
2021 Rebel Helen Peterson 2 episodes
2023 The Fall of the House of Usher Madeline Usher 8 episodes
2024–present Tracker Mary Dove Shaw Main role

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1991 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Dances with Wolves Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
1993 Academy Awards Best Actress Passion Fish Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
2002 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series ER Nominated
2009 Saturn Awards Best Actress on Television Battlestar Galactica Won
2011 Gotham Awards Best Ensemble Cast Margin Call Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Cast Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series The Closer Nominated
2024 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries The Fall of the House of Usher Nominated


  1. ^ "Mary McDonnell Facts". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on May 1, 2022. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  2. ^ "Mary McDonnell Biography". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on May 1, 2022. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  3. ^ Hellmann, Paul T. (2006). Historical Gazetteer of the United States. New York: Routledge. p. 952. ISBN 978-1-135-94859-7.
  4. ^ Butkiewicz, Joe (February 18, 1993). "Mary McDonnell Nominated for Best Actress". Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre. pp. 1 & 2B. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  5. ^ "Mary McDonnell". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Devries, Hilary (August 29, 1993). "Acting Her Age". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on May 1, 2022. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  7. ^ "'Major Crimes' star Mary McDonnell on balancing acting, family". Erie Times-News. July 5, 2015. Archived from the original on May 1, 2022. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  8. ^ Profile, Accessed April 15, 2022.
  9. ^ "81".
  10. ^ "The 63rd Academy Awards | 1991".
  11. ^ "The 65th Academy Awards | 1993".
  12. ^ "Zap2it Interview". MSNBC. Archived from the original on December 23, 2008. Retrieved November 13, 2008.
  13. ^ Battlestar Galactica World Science Festival, June 10–14, 2009, New York City
  14. ^ Creepy, Uncle (July 2, 2010). "And the Body Count Continues – More Scream 4 Casting: Mary McDonnell and Alison Brie". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  15. ^ Ausiello, Michael (March 22, 2009). "'The Closer' exclusive: It's McDonnell vs. Sedgwick!". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on March 24, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009.
  16. ^ "Primetime Emmy Awards nominations for 2011 – Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  17. ^ Fienberg, Daniel (May 18, 2011). "TNT orders 'Closer' spinoff 'Major Crimes' starring Mary McDonnell". HitFix. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  18. ^ "Mary Mcdonnell Biography". TV Guide.
  19. ^ "'Battlestar Gallactica' Star Mary McDonnell & Husband Randle Mell Split". Extra. December 10, 2021. Retrieved December 10, 2021.